And then there were three. After 11 weeks of Dancing with the Stars action, it’s time to crown the winner of season 17. Amber Riley and Derek Hough, Corbin Bleu and Karina Smirnoff and Jack Osbourne and Cheryl Burke are left standing, and one of them will take home the coveted Mirror Ball Trophy.

Recap: The Top 4 Compete>>

Despite some unfair and absurd eliminations over the past few weeks, this has been a fairly great season of Dancing with the Stars. If you love skilled dancers, we had Corbin Bleu and Elizabeth Berkley. If you want to see non-dancers grow into talented performers, we had Jack Osbourne and Leah Remini. If you love big personalities and entertaining routines, there were the Bills, Nye and Engvall. If you want an inspirational story of triumph over adversity, no one better personifies that idea than Valerie Harper. And if you’re just here for the eye candy, Derek Hough, Brant Daugherty and Corbin Bleu delivered.

Finale Performance Rankings>>

The two-hour DWTS finale will include one last round of dancing as the three remaining couples compete in the 24-Hour Dance Fusion, where they must combine two styles they received at the end of Monday’s episode, meaning they’ve had less than a day to choreograph and rehearse. Those scores will be added to Monday’s totals and the viewer votes from last night to decide the winner.

We’ve also got performances by Lady Antebellum, Enrique Iglesias, Ylvis (whose song, “The Fox,” was used in my favorite dance of the season) and one final dance from Valerie Harper and Tristan MacManus. I’ve got two boxes of tissues next to me to prepare for that last one.

I’m predicting that Corbin and Karina will win, but I’m biased because that’s what I want to happen. The rationale, objective part of me suspects Derek may win his fifth Mirror Ball.

Monday’s Leaderboard

64: Amber Riley and Derek Hough
62: Corbin Bleu and Karina Smirnoff
57: Jack Osbourne and Cheryl Burke

In a perfect bookend, the finale opens the same way the premiere did, with an extravagant group dance that starts outside and brings us into the ballroom, featuring all of the couples from this season and the judges.

Enrique Iglesias

Oh Enrique, as much as I dislike these musical performances, I can’t help but love him. He’s like a Latino Rob Lowe, never aging and always beautiful. Seriously, he’s 38 and he looks just as good as when “Hero” came out 12 years ago.

Freestyle Encore

Amber and Derek won the Twitter contest to perform their dance again. That worries me, because I assume their popularity will translate into a victory. It has nothing to do with who was the best or who’s the most deserving, it’s simply about Derek having more Twitter followers than any other pro and Amber having the power of the Gleeks behind her. Also, as I rewatch it, why is it called “stepping” if it’s more about her hands?

“What Does the Fox Say?”

Ylvis is here to perform the viral sensation (that Glee will be covering, with puppets, this Thursday) and Team Foxing Awesome reprises their routine, which was at the top of my best dances of the season. It’s so cool to see the three finalists all in this routine, along with Brant Daugherty (who appears to be celebrating Movember). It’s every bit as enjoyable the second time around, especially with Ylvis, dressed as foxes, singing on top of the judges’ table.

The Female Pros

In an attempt to prove that Derek isn’t the prettiest pro, all the female pro dancers team up for a killer group routine that has lots of shake and very little fabric.

The Six-Million Dollar Nye

A clever video package shows Tyne Stecklein “rebuilding” Bill Nye after his injury into a bionic dancer. We then see their “Weird Science” Cha-Cha-Cha again, only with the help of editing, “Bill” does a bunch of awesome flips.

Elizabeth Berkley and Val Chmerkovskiy

The couple that should be in the finale (and, for me, should’ve won) get to redo their Cha-Cha-Cha from week 6, which got the first 30 of the season. That is fittingly followed by a recap of the middle weeks when people at the top of the leaderboard (like Christina Milian) started to go home.

Christina Milian and Brant Daugherty

Two more early exits do a killer routine with their partners, Mark Ballas and Peta Murgatroyd, to Lady Gaga’s “Applause.” Brant is rocking a super sexy sleeveless tuxedo. If these two and Elizabeth were in the finale, it would be just as good as the actual final three, if not better. The fact that none of them were even in the Final 5 is a travesty.

Valerie Harper and Tristan MacManus

The woman who was supposed to be dead in March is back with a completely new routine accompanied by Colbie Caillat singing “What a Wonderful World.” She views it as a huge “thank you” to everyone who has supported her. She gets a standing ovation before she even begins. There’s a moment during the dance when Valerie looks at Tristan and smiles, and it melts my heart.

Nicole “Snooki” Polizzi and Sasha Farber

True to the weird, random assemblage of people this season, Valerie’s beautiful dance is followed by Snooki reprising her “Work Bitch” dance. Snooki is a human contradiction.

Lady Antebellum

I wish they were performing “Applause.” Lady Gagabellum would be a cool cover band.

Leah Remini and Tony Dovolani

They redo their week 9 Tango that got a 27 the first time around. It’s good, but she doesn’t get much fanfare.

Bill Engvall and Emma Slater

To round out the eliminated cast dances, Bill does his Samba. Meh, there were many others I’d rather see him do again. Cheeseburgers or Lone Ranger would’ve been better.

Corbin Bleu and Karina Smirnoff: Foxtrot/Cha-Cha-Cha

It’s finally time for the Fusion Dances, and these two ate doing the FoxCha. Corbin is really focused on pleasing the judges, since no audience is voting for this one. It starts slow and elegant (that’s the Foxtrot), then he rips open his shirt and it gets to the sexy Cha-Cha portion. It looks great to me and they look like they’re having the best time. Len says it was almost perfect, but then he messed up a bit at the end. They all praise the amazing Foxtrot half.

Judges’ Scores: 9+9+9=27

I hope they’re just as hard on the others.

Jack Osbourne and Cheryl Burke: Salsa/Paso Doble

It’s a Paso Salsa (or a Salsa Doble). He does better than I expect. The Paso portion is quite good. He still lacks the physical musicality of Corbin, but he seems to hit the steps. Carrie Ann Inaba points out some issues with the Salsa, though since he’s never done it, that’s understandable. I know Jack had no dance training so he’s had to climb more and do more work than the other two, but I don’t like how the judges seem to take that into consideration in their scoring. All couples should be judged equally.

Judges Scores: 9+9+9=27

So is everyone getting 9s?

Amber Riley and Derek Hough: Samba/Quickstep

They have a QuickSamba (or SambaStep). It’s another OK dance. She’s great at shaking her upper body and showing off her curves, but the biggest applause from the audience comes when Amber just stands there and Derek spins around really fast. Carrie Ann raves about inventing the “QuiSambaStep.” Oh no, their lead is about to get even bigger.

Judges’ Scores: 10+10+10=30

Of course. She’s really good, but she’s not THAT perfect.

The Final Leaderboard

94: Amber Riley and Derek Hough (35.2 percent)
89: Corbin Bleu and Karina Smirnoff (33.33 percent)
84: Jack Osbourne and Cheryl Burke (31.46 percent)

So after it’s all done, Amber has a 2 percent lead over Corbin and a nearly 4 percent lead over Jack. I think it says a lot that, in individual dances, Amber was perfect for all three routines in the finals. But when compared head-to-head in the Samba relay, she was second to Corbin. What that says to me is that Corbin is a better dancer, Amber just has better choreography.


It’s finally time to hand out the Mirror Ball Trophy.

The couple in THIRD PLACE is…Jack and Cheryl!

That’s fair, and it means Jack tied his sister, Kelly.

The WINNERS of Dancing with the Stars season 17 are…Amber Riley and Derek Hough!

Meh. I’m happy for her and it’s nice to see a plus-size girl win (and she’s also the first African-American female to win). But she was overscored all season long and the judges completely ignored her bottom half (her footwork was lacking). Also, her partner is Derek Hough, who has now won FIVE times. I firmly believe just as many people vote for him as for his partner and it’s gotten out of control. I mean, if Derek is back for season 18, I put the odds of him winning at about 85 percent, no matter who his partner is.

For my final thought on the season, read this article I wrote about why Derek should retire as a pro partner. This result only supports my position even more.

(Image courtesy of ABC)

John Kubicek

Senior Writer, BuddyTV

John watches nearly every show on TV, but he specializes in sci-fi/fantasy like The Vampire DiariesSupernatural and True Blood. However, he can also be found writing about everything from Survivor and Glee to One Tree Hill and Smallville.